David "Awol" Miller kindly sent me a review copy of The A.T. Guide -- A Handbook for Hiking the Appalachian Trail.
After a short struggle trying to open the dang Tyvek envelope -- before slashing the sucker with my sharpest knife -- out fluttered a sturdy zip-lock baggie, along with the handbook.
"DuPont(TM) Tyvek(R) envelopes are made from DuPont(TM) Tyvek(R) brand protective material, a material so strong and durable, it easily withstands the most grueling conditions. In fact, it's virtually indestructible because it isn't paper ... it's Tyvek(R)!
That's when Van Halen came to mind, of course.
In days of olde, Van Halen (the rock band) had a clause in their performance contract with venues that required promoters to provide chips & dip, yogurt, pretzels and M&Ms, etc. Nothing terribly unusual, except the band demanded that all the brown M&Ms had to be removed. Honest.
If the band came into their dressing rooms and found brown M&Ms, they knew immediately their contract was not followed perfectly. Everything had to be correct or the fussing began.
Please Note: This is neither an endorsement of Van Halen nor a disparagement of brown M&Ms. Thank you.
What does this have to do with Awol's 2015 edition of The A.T. Guide ?
Last year when I reviewed the 2014 Awol Appalachian Trail guide, I mentioned that it didn't fit neatly into a baggie, as it had in previous years. Am I boasting that my brief comment caused Awol to include the baggie? No.
My point is the baggie represents, to me at least, how David Miller throws himself into perfecting The A.T. Guide. To such a degree that he wants it to be the perfect resource -- for Appalachian Trail thru-hikers especially -- to endure the 2,189.2 trek in good shape.
David Miller wants everything to be right in The A.T. Guide.
That's why it gets better every year.
Take the paper for instance. This year it's thicker and has a coating on it that will help it endure the hike in fine shape. Is it a microgram heavier? Probably.
Totally worth it, however, if you're dancing in a lightning storm in the White Mountains and the ink isn't running like that scene from Casablanca.
As David says, "The 2015 book [has] a more durable coated paper (*not* waterproof), which is an even steeper increase in production cost. I hope it's worth it."
The binding is heavier too. That means the Handbook for Hiking the Appalachian Trail won't come apart just when you need it -- in the White Mountains or somewhere in the deepest, darkest, moose-rich portion in the 100-Mile Wilderness.
Wanna-be and former Appalachian Trail thru-hikers become apoplectic (definition: "freak out") when they hear of trail guides getting bigger, no matter what vital material might be added. Each gram of weight is counted, weighed and fretted over as if it represented an anvil. Yes, weight matters. Totally.
My guess, however, is whatever added weight the better paper and/or binding might add is less than the weight of crud in the grooves of the average pair of hiking boots or shoes. (Not to mention the burden of extra body hair, filthy finger and/or toe nails, and bugs in beards.)
David understands the conflict between lowering the weight and adding maps and info.
There will be 88 town and area maps in The 2015 A.T. Guide. New maps include: Robbinsville, NC; Carlisle, PA; and, Vernon, NJ. No pages have been added and the book is the same size (8" x 5.25", 8.5 oz).
What's inside The A.T. Guide is the most important part, of course.
Awol's guide simply has everything you'll need to know where to start your hike ... where you are on your hike ... and if it's stupid to hike another mile or two at twilight because there might be a mountain lurking in the distance that you'll have to summit before you rest.
Feeling lucky on your hike? No problem. Awol includes the distances to the next (hello?) three shelters -- up ahead or back from whence you came.
Looking for water? You'll find every oasis, creek, river or faucet on the Trail. That's not just trivia, that's life-saving information.
All mothers and grandparents of AT hikers believe that the maps of the Appalachian Trail offer nothing more than clues such as:
After entering the Fire Swamp, beware of the two-headed pythons and the crazoids in the penal colony without fences. Do not let the bears know that you are afraid. Ask the men hiding in the trees where the best place to camp is ... but don't believe them if they say, "Here in this tree." At night, do not venture into the forest if you hear scary laughter. If you get lost, look for a tree with nine branches -- it won't help, but it will take your mind off of your impending doom.
Relax fellow old people! Awol hiked the Trail himself. He double-checks everything in The A.T. Guide every year. He knows more about the Appalachian Trail than [insert name of somebody who knows a lot about the AT here but not Chuck Norris].
Awol's AT Guide makes getting lost on the Trail something you'd have to TRY to accomplish.
There are reference points based on streams, shelters, footbridges, power lines, roads, ponds, knobs/gaps/balds, campgrounds, railroad tracks, other trail crossings and whatever else could possibly help you know where you are and how far it is to where you want to go.
The A.T. Guide can guide you up, down or through any portion of the Appalachian Trail as if you have been there before.
If you're attempting a thru-hike, my guess is you will waste a couple of hundred dollars on gear you'll never use or gear that you'll hate when you use it.
If you're going out for an overnight, a weekend, a section hike or more, this resource is the best thing you can buy to guide you.
Should you tire of the Trail and look for some fun(that you will NOT get because you stink) in town, The A.T. Guide will tell you where to veer off, where to wash up, eat, wash your undies (presuming you'll be wearing any), call home for more money and to call that one person you cannot live without -- except on a nine-month hike of the AT, of course -- and assure them you have not been eaten by bears, mice, potheads or mosquitoes the size of albatross (albatrosses?).
The Guide knows all about restaurants (with hours, prices and phone numbers) and which lodging providers will just be thrilled to have you pack 19 fellow hikers into a room with two beds so that you can use $284 worth of hot water to try (in vain) to wash the stink off.
Whatever interesting, useful, valuable, helpful information you will ever want to know about hiking the Appalachian Trail or how to navigate into/through more than a hundred towns along the way ... you'll find it -- quickly and easily -- in The A.T. Guide -- A Handbook for Hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Don't leave home without it.
Inside The A.T. Guide you'll find:
Tags: Appalachian Trail, Hiking Gear, News, Entertainment, Books, and Robert Sutherland Travel Writer
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